Four Infant Research Labs Presented at CEU

Four research laboratories working on infant cognition and development gathered at CEU to present their work at the "Little Scientists' Afternoon" on Feb. 24. Budapest seems to be a center for infant research, with four world-class laboratories, the presenters said.

The participants and co-organizers of the event were CEU's BabyLab, part of the university's Cognitive Development Center, the ELTE Babylab, part of Eotvos Lorand University (ELTE), the MTA Babaakademia or "Baby Academy" of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and the Sound and Speech Perception Research Group at the Academy of Sciences. All four research groups share an interest in the cognitive processes of infants and small children.

At the well-attended open house event, visitors obtained insight into the labs' activities as well as the key questions and methods in developmental psychology today. Interactive exhibitions and presentations by the researchers showed how babies perceive the world and how we can know what they are thinking about when they cannot yet use language to tell us.

Hungarian news portals covered the event, describing CEU BabyLab's "boom-boom" test to see how babies respond to teaching. The researchers looked at whether babies make decisions based on their own experience and perceived efficiency, or they follow behavior taught to them. In this experiment, 18-month-olds sit in their mothers' laps and watch someone arrive and talk to them in simple language while pressing a blue button on a box, which out of three times plays an interesting sound twice (boom-boom). Then someone comes in and shows without explaining that pressing the red button results in the sound playing each time. The results showed that most babies chose the less-efficient blue button. If neither 'helper' communicates, just shows the operation of the two buttons, then babies choose the more efficient option, the red button. CEU's results are confirmed by separate research by ELTE BabyLab.

“This shows that in certain cases babies choose taught behavior even if it goes against their observations. This might seem disadvantageous at first, but it has an important role to play. This openness to teaching makes it possible for babies to acquire knowledge that is not yet transparent to them, but is important culturally,” said Hanna Marno, researcher at CEU’s BabyLab, about the conclusions of the experiment.